Continuing in my ongoing series of things to put in jars, let’s talk about ginger. I adore ginger and put it in lots of things. Breakfast, dinner, dessert, all can benefit from a bit of delicious ginger. The only thing I don’t tend to care for is store-bought ginger ale. It’s insipid. I prefer to make my own.
It’s ridiculously easy, and in the process, I get crystallized ginger and ginger sugar as a bonus. I did it last week, and I figured I should show you how it’s done. 1) Get some ginger. The fresher the better (my grocery store seems to get theirs delivered every other Tuesday, it’s worth asking when yours does). How much is up to you, this is the three biggest pieces the store had. 2) Peel it. Don’t be super precise (I’m not, clearly). And if your ginger is super fresh and young (mine wasn’t) and has nice soft skin, you can just leave it on. Save the peels, you’ll use them here shortly.
3) Chop it. How small is up to you, I do it pretty roughly because I like my chunks of crystallized ginger about this size. While you’re at it, wrap the peel up in some cheesecloth and tie it up tight. If you’re feeling experimental toss a few cloves, or some peppercorns, or some allspice berries, or a cinnamon stick in that cheese cloth too. Totally optional, but yummy if you’ve got them handy.
4) Boil it. Use a measuring cup to scoop your chopped ginger into a nice big pan. Get a rough idea of how much ginger you’ve got (not counting the peels). Again, you don’t have to be super precise. This is about 3 cups here. Add that same amount of sugar and the same amount of water to the pan (so in this case 3 cups of each). Toss in the peels (the cheesecloth makes them easy to get back out later). Bring it all to boil. You’ve cleverly used a large pan because it may foam up a bit. Let it boil for about 10 minutes, put on a lid, and turn off the heat. Let it sit for a nice long time. An hour at least, overnight is cool if you’re not in a hurry.
5) Strain it. Fish out the peels and toss them, they’ve given their all and are done. Strain the syrup into mason jars (if you let it sit overnight, and are feeling paranoid, you could re-heat it to be super safe, just be careful dealing with the hot liquid). Pop it in the fridge
6) Crystallize it. Dump the chopped ginger into an equal amount of sugar (so 3 cups again) and stir it around to coat all the ginger in sugar. Let it sit for a day or on a tray so the ginger dries out and gets all crunchy (if it’s humid, consider using a tray that can go in the oven on low for 30 minutes at the end to make the next bit easier). Then sift the mix out (I use a colander) to separate the sugar and the ginger chunks. Keep those in the pantry.
6) Use it. An ounce or so of the syrup in club soda makes the best ginger ale ever. The crystallized ginger, well, that’s more or less candy. Or you can cook with it if you insist. These scones are awfully good. And the sugar works marvelously well any place you’d use sugar. Put it in your tea. Use it in that scone recipe. Use it for molasses cookies. Put it on cinnamon toast. You get the idea.